ELKINS - The Randolph County Development Authority board voted unanimously Monday to support a Corridor H Authority resolution pushing for a public/private partnership to help complete the highway by 2020.
RCDA Executive Director Robbie Morris read the resolution, which stated the partnership is vital to the growth of Randolph County.
Morris said a recent study on the completion of Corridor H by 2020 - instead of the projected completion date of 2036 or after - suggests a positive economic impact of at least $1.254 billion in income for the state.
Morris said the completion of the section of Corridor H from Kerens to Parsons will mean the entire highway is 87 percent complete.
"The public/private partnership is authorized by the 2013 Legislative session that allows the Department of Highways to enter into contacts for private funding for state projects," Morris said. "Basically the construction company will finance the project and the state will pay them back. The law went into effect July 1, and is basically like a mortgage."
Morris said the current funding method for the section from Kerens to Parsons is expected to cost $400 million.
"Right now, (the state) receive(s) $40 million a year toward Corridor H," Morris said. "Thirty-two million comes from the Appalachian Region Commission and $8 million is matched with state funds.
"We would have to wait 10 years at $40 million a clip to completely fund the part from Kerens to Parsons. Inflation will also cause that cost to go up. This way, the construction would finance the $400 million on the front end and then start billing the state to pay off the cost."
Morris said this would expedite the completion of construction.
"With the state's good bond rating and credit history, we can save the cost of inflation, which pays for the interest," Morris said.
Morris said the next section of Corridor H will be the part from Kerens to Parsons. RCDA member Gary Clay asked if the financing would fall to the construction company.
"Yes it would," Morris said.
"Would that change who constructs the Corridor, since they would also have to because they now have to finance the project?" Clay asked.
"We have a couple of construction companies in the state that have proven to be able to take huge chunks of Corridor H, J.F. Allen being one of them," Morris said. "There is a chance that an out-of-state construction company could actually win the general contract. Usually when that happens, they end up hiring multiple contractors from within the state to get it done.
"We will still have West Virginia companies that are constructing, but what you are really dealing with is the profit margin."
Morris said the federal government is currently funding the Appalachian Belted Highway System "at 100 percent" instead of "making an 80/20 match,"
Morris said. "If funding were to dry up from the Feds, the Department of Highway has expressed they would do whatever it takes to continue funding."
Members of the board met for nearly two hours in executive session during Monday's meeting. Morris said the purpose of the session was a discussion about real estate. No votes were taken or decisions made during or following the session.
The next regular meeting of the Randolph County Development Authority is scheduled for 4 p.m. Jan. 14 at the RCDA office.